Malian guitarist/singer-songwriter Sidi Touré will be releasing his next album on Thrill Jockey on September 17. Alafia will be his third album for the Chicago-based label since breaking onto the international music scene in 2011 and his fourth overall. The fact that he’s able to release it is already a relief, as artists and musicians in Northern Mali have seen (to put it incredibly mildly) some difficult times over the past 18 months or so.
In early 2012, after a military coup, a far-right extremist Islamist coalition came together and filled the power vacuum in the region. Effectively banning Western influence and music in all forms, the musically rich region saw its collective creativity silenced amid torture and gunfire. Thousands of artists began to flee. While things have gotten a little better since French troops raided Timbuktu this past January in an attempt to regain order, they haven’t gotten that much better, with electricity and fuel scarce and no semblance of a functioning economy.
While Touré’s native Gao was under control of the Islamists, he and his band were essentially exiled in Nantes, France after finishing their first European tour. It’s there that they began work on Alafia. Once some of the bigger cities in Mali had been liberated, they toured with fellow Malian acts Bassekou Kouyate and Tamikrest, traveling to Bamako, Mali to finish recording the album. The political turmoil and strife, while devastating for an area that has created fantastic art (Mali being home to Ali Farka Touré [no relation], Tinariwen, and Amadou & Miriam among others), is ripe for inspiration. Sidi Touré has created Alafia, which translates to “peace” in English, to reflect and comment on the ongoing uncertainty in his homeland.
A co-headlining tour with Cedric Watson this year is in the works as well as a solo tour for 2014. So, keep any eye out for dates and locations.